I used to believe there was never a legitimate reason to withhold information from a primary care doctor. Now I feel that information is only to be given on a need to know basis.
In late high school, my therapist (M.S.) gave me three choices, I could go on medication, go back to DBT or go to my primary care doctor to get my cuts looked at. If I refused select one of them, she wouldn’t meet with me anymore. I resented the ultimatum, but decided to go for the primary care option. Medication and DBT would be continued disruptions to my life but a trip to the doctor could be done and over with in a day.
I didn’t have any control over making my own doctor appointments or transporting myself to the doctor. My parents don’t know about my cutting so I couldn’t tell them why I needed to go.
I invented a vague medical issue (I can’t remember what, maybe a stomach ache?) and asked to go to the doctor. Given my Mom’s hysterical tendency to overreact to physical symptoms, this was all I needed to get an appointment.
I went to the appointment and no surprise, my cuts did not need medical attention, but the therapist didn’t trust my judgment.
I thought I was done with the primary care task, but the therapist kept insisting I periodically return.
More vague medical issues were invented. My cuts were fine. I make a lot of cuts, but the depth of each individual one is nothing to worry about.
One visit, my regular doctor wasn’t in and instead I met with an overemotional doctor who grabbed my arm and made me promise not to kill myself.
When I was hospitalized for the first time it was partially related to losing my virginity. Although I know that with lesbian sex the risks are lower, I decided to ask for a STD test. The HIV test was done while I was in the hospital, but the other more general test was not.
I was 19, but my primary care doctor was still my pediatrician. Google says that up to age 21 people sometimes still see their pediatrician, but for me age 19 felt much too old. I didn’t have control over making doctors appointments yet and hadn’t been comfortable asking my parents about switching. The doctors at the hospital helped me out by writing in my discharge report, “Recommend the patient establish care with gynecologist”.
Upon release from the hospital I had an appointment with the new primary care doctor. I got my STD test (Results were fine). That was the only appointment I ever had with her.
Much later, I was trying to find a therapist. A local hospital’s psychology department said they could get me one, but first I needed a primary care doctor in their hospital. I made an appointment to see this new doctor (I will call her Doctor A). I gave a fairly lengthy psych history to her, because I needed her to help me get a therapist within her hospital. She seemed very nice and insisted she’d help me get a therapy appointment quickly.
The hospital wasn’t able to follow through with getting me a therapist. The wait list was a month long and even after the wait I wouldn’t be able to have a high enough frequency of appointments.
Another local hospital said they too could find me a therapist if I had a primary care doctor in their hospital. Again, I went to a new primary care doctor who I told more about my psychological history than my physical history. This hospital was also not able to follow through on their promise of a therapist.
I decided to switch back to Doctor A because her hospital had a more convenient location. Both hospitals are affiliated with the same prestigious medical school so I believed they were of comparable quality. Turns out the USnews rankings feel strongly otherwise, but I didn’t know this at the time.
I had a handful of appointments with Doctor A. I needed a form signed for school, the HPV vaccination, I had the flu etc.
I wasn’t pleased with how she handled my medical form for my new school. She put much too much information down about my psychological history. I felt the only appropriate information was the medication I was on (klonopin) and a small reference to minor anxiety as an explanation. I didn’t feel comfortable using her form with what had happened last time I had a school know my psychological history.
I never gave my new school the medical form. I’ve avoided the student health center. I worried they would track me down looking for it, but it never happened.
My third hospitalization was at Doctor A’s hospital. The many ways that that hospitalization was the worst I’ve had are a subject for another post. When I was discharged they insisted I make a follow-up appointment with my primary care doctor. The next available appointment was many months outward. The appointment was made and although I felt it was unnecessary I kept in in my calendar book.
After the hospitalization at Doctor A’s hospital I requested a copy of my records. I really only cared about the records from my inpatient stay, but because I was already going through the effort of making the request I also checked the box asking for my primary care records.
In my initial appointment with Doctor A I had mentioned that I am a lesbian. I was also asked if I am sexually active. I find that a hard question to answer; I explained that I only had sex once. I was asked if it had been consensual and I told her it was. At the time I didn’t think much of the question about consent, it seemed like a reasonable follow up.
In my records I was surprised to find this:
“She has had one sexual encounter with a man 1 year ago, but has not had intercourse since. She considers herself a lesbian but does not have a girlfriend and is not sexually active.”
I definitely never said anything about having sex with a man! I’ve only had sex with a woman. At the follow-up appointment I called her out on this. She was very insistent that I had told her I had sex with a man.
She heard the statements “I have had sex once” and “I am a lesbian”. I think this was likely not conscious, but I believe she was biased to assume that “sex” is a man plus a woman even though intellectually I believe she understands the alternatives. So following that she asked the question about consent, because it didn’t make sense for a lesbian to have sex with a man unless it was rape. There are of course exceptions to this, such as when a person begins identifying as a lesbian later in life. Instead of asking for clarification she assumed I was one of those exceptions and entered the incorrect information into my record.
I wasn’t pleased to learn that my doctor had an implicit bias against homosexuals. I realize there are some leaps and assumptions in here, but I think it is the most logical explanation of what happened.
I decided I was done with preventative medicine. I have chronic suicidal ideation. Although I wasn’t going to take action to kill myself then, I shouldn’t take action to keep myself alive. Basic needs such as eating and sleeping were okay, but no need for check-ups. Maybe I would come down with a horrible disease and would die without needing the effort of killing myself.
Eventually, I loosened up on my boycott of preventative medicine. I found a new primary care doctor (Doctor B), one at a clinic with a focus on the LGBT community. I told Doctor B the bare minimum of psychological history; I let her know the medications I am on, and mentioned nothing other than occasional panic attacks and ADHD. That’s all she needs to know. If she doesn’t know more, then she can’t tell more on any forms I need her to sign.
In September when I had my most recent overdose, I wanted to go to a doctor to get checked out. I couldn’t go to to Doctor B, because I don’t want her knowing about my crazy.
I waited a week to avoid the risk of being forcibly hospitalized. The more time between me and the overdose the less of a case they would have that I was an immediate danger to myself.
Doctor A was a resident and no longer works in the same hospital, but the hospital assigned me a new primary care doctor who I have never met. As far as Doctor A’s hospital is concerned I still have a primary care doctor there. I just haven’t been to an appointment for awhile. This gave me access to their walk-in clinic.
I met with a doctor who insisted I needed an emergency appointment with their psych department. Because it was after hours and I wasn’t an immediate risk she said she’d call tomorrow with a referral for an urgent appointment. I didn’t argue because I didn’t want to say anything that might force me to stay there. But it was frustrating, because I’d come for the physical issues only.
Everything was fine physically in her tests besides my reported GI symptoms (they eventually faded away).
I dutifully followed up with all of the hoops to get the urgent appointment. I was without therapy so I figured it couldn’t hurt. The appointment never materialized. No surprise there.
I would probably go back there if I needed other medical attention related to my psychological issues. I don’t like them but they’re capable of running a blood test or giving an X-ray. Doctor B is still my doctor for yearly appointments and anything else .
I don’t know which doctor is my real primary care doctor. Neither has the full story. Each has their specialized purpose. It works, so I’ll keep it like this.